Anyone who has been to Pomona already knows it’s no picnic from June to July, so the 2008 Vans Warped Tour had its work cut out in making it a worthwhile trip for audiences in the face of criticism over this year’s line-up choices. Though a realization of this wouldn’t come until the day had ended, Kevin Lyman’s punk rock summer camp would indeed deliver, as it unfailingly seems to.

Cobra Starship brought their signature flair for excess to the stripped-down Warped stages early in the day, proving that even in the heat and dirt that only Pomona can provide, there’s no reason to not have a dance party. Frontman Gabe Saporta showcased a flamboyancy that, while not infrequently tongue in cheek, still proved masterful in its ability to rouse and connect with his audience.

The Academy Is... and Gym Class Heroes rounded out the seeming trinity of genre-bending dance-pop while hard rockers As I Lay Dying, Every Time I Die and Norma Jean adeptly held down the opposite end of the rock spectrum, making sure the show wasn’t too girlfriend-friendly.

Long overdue for main stage billing, Warped mainstays Anberlin proved themselves entirely worthy of the upgrade, just as Against Me! proved themselves worthy of the mainstream media attention they’ve garnered of late. With Anberlin vocalist Stephen Christian’s crooning of internal struggles balancing Against Me! frontman Tom Gabel’s politically charged yelling, both were prime examples of bands who understand the art of writing music that’s both meaningful and anthemic, regardless of subject matter. Conversely, Angels & Airwaves continued to aurally root canal audiences, those who know anything about good music continued to not care about them.

Continuing it’s sonic evolution, what this year’s tour lacked in both testosterone-crazed shredding and legit female rockers (seriously Katy Perry, learn how to project) when compared to last year, it more than made up for with an abundance of flat-ironed, tight-jeaned bromance among the menfolk. For as diverse and eclectic as this year’s line-up was, it was easy to get a sense that these bands legitimately liked each other as people and enjoyed each other’s music.

This year’s tour seems to have taken on a road trip theme, and never has it felt more appropriate, because who better to hit the road with for the summer than your best friends and family?